Kitty Bitch, due any time now and bloody tired of being homebound, goes off for a little jaunt with her personal pilot and little ship. She runs into fellow musician Jimi Ray, and takes him along to discuss his opening for her band. They go off to Regina down, to do some scenic cruising, but they don't come back.
198 - 1122.
It's been 24 hours since Kitty went for her ride, and there has been no contact. The reporters are laying in wait for Behrel, who is not in the mood to be trifled with, especially after Kitty's ship is found, sans Kitty and Pilot, in a contested area on the planet. The Starport Authority crash response team that located the ship were not able to stay to find out more information, as they started to take fire, and sensibly got the hell out of there after pulling Jimi Ray out from underneath the wreckage. The ship was in an area that is hotly contested by several local factions.
The area in question is in a jungle-like part of the planet that has been the site of recent deep-core drilling, and is rumored to be of potential interest to several megacorps, including Naasirka. This might explain how well-equiped the locals are, from a weapons standpoint.
Behrel contacts Nicolai, who will go on ahead and do a preliminary recce of the area. Corina, upon hearing about Kitty, calls Behrel and tells him he has her express permission to take whatever equipment, weapons, etc. he needs, including Ghaer (Behrel asks to borrow Corina's 'Jackal'). Once they find Kitty, they can contact Corina, who will arrange for immediate pick up. Ghaer contacts Cena, as the party needs a doctor, and Behrel calls Anders, so the party will have two doctors!
Behrel gets the opportunity to question Jimi Ray, but all he remembers is a bang, a crash, and darkness until the rescue team appeared. Then there was a lot of shooting and running away. Behrel asks if Jimi Ray is ready to go back to the LZ, and Jimi Ray wants to know if Behrel has lost his mind? Behrel explains that the LZ is the last place his wife was, so he's going after her. Jimi Ray asks what service Behrel was in, and when he gets the response of "Marines", Jimi Ray responds with "I'll get my gear".
Anders and Cena both make sure they have all the equipment they could need for the medical issues. This includes weapons, armors, and oh yeah - medical stuff. The police are fans of Kitty and Behrel, so they make sure he has the proper authority to take weapons, etc. on planet - like a real police badge. Cool.
Nicolai's pilot earns his pay and then some, by avoiding a missile. It's definitely not a cheap little rpg either. The pilot sets down, Nicolai bounds out, and the ship is gone. Nicolai heads out of the immediate area, as the tanks and trucks start to arrive.
Behrel and his party get briefed as much as possible as to the terrain, etc. of the area, while Jimi Ray unpacks his new weapons and armor from OmniMart. Jimi Ray has tactical experience, so he has good input on the where and whyfore. Anders suggests they take a vehicle with them, as the area has a lot of mining roads, etc. A 12-wheel Terrainasaurus is purchased (sort of a large command vehicle) - it's international orange, since it was a rescue vehicle, but it's repainted while they wait.
The vehicle is too big for the cargo bay of the Scout courier Behrel has hired, but the pilot - Lucky LaRue - figures he can sling it underneath. No matter what the problem is, Lucky's response is "Yeah, we could do that". Behrel buys Lucky a pair of the best aviator shades you can get. On takeoff, the polka music starts, and Lucky snaps his lucky rubber band on his wrist. And they're off.
On approaching the LZ, the ship is locked onto by a missile. Lucky is able to lose the missile in an abandoned mining facility, where it impacts and causes a major explosion due to the particles of biologicals (coal, oil, etc.) in the air. Nicolai heads that direction, after seeing missiles and a large explosion, hoping to find survivors, while the rest of the group pack up and take off like really comfy bats out of hell in the Terrainasaurus. The tracer fire doesn't hit them, as they are going too fast. En route, Ghaer keeps trying to raise Nicolai, which is not easy, due to the jungle conditions.
Nicolai is located, trudging through the mucky jungle, when he is almost run over by the rest of the party. Almost. Anders, who is driving, sees that she's almost run someone over (the sensors on the vehicle can see Nicolai, even though he's in chameleon 3), and slams on the brakes. Nicolai dives into the bushes, as he doesn't yet know to expect a vehicle, and Anders stopped out of habit. Ghaer realizes it's Nicolai when he tries to radio him and they are both almost deafened. Nicolai gets into the vehicle, and starts to brief the rest of the group on what he has seen.
As the party heads down the road, a rather lethal looking gunship shows up right behind them. On Ghaer and Cena's yell of "On your six!", Anders does a sharp left turn into the jungle. The helicopter parallels them on the road, firing into the jungle. Jimi Ray is lightly wounded, and everyone bails out. Behrel waits for the gunship to return, then fires on it. The helicopter pilot evidently takes offense at that, as he drops a shoe mine grenade over the group.
Anders and Jimi Ray get into a temporarily sticky situation with the mines, but are able to get out. Anders and Ghaer blow a swath through the mines with det cord, and the party drives off again, sustaining only minimal tire damage. While crashing through the jungle, checking out the various packages that fall out in the bumping around. The Pikhan survival pack is very thorough, and the rations are edible, if a tad 'interesting'.
As night falls, the group is able to use the roads, and makes good time to the crash site. Aside from the monkeys playing with the survival kit's .22, the ship looks like some one has taken all the tools, liquor, and whatever they were able to cut out of the safe. The Terrainasaurus is hidden about 50 metres from the crash site, in a creek bed. Watches are set, to keep an eye on the ship. The group will look for signs of tracks, etc. in the morning.
Ghaer spends most of his watch reading the vehicle's owner's manual. The Terrainasaurus can emit low-pitched growls, and predator smells, etc. Any one who is asleep at the time wakes up with the "something bad out there" feeling when Ghaer is playing that sound through the headphones.
199 - 1122.
Before dawn, a very professional, very well organized group with a crash-recovery unit shows up to salvage the crash site. Anders figures the best idea will be to follow this group when they leave. The unit leaves before dawn, to avoid aerial patrols, apparently. The group takes a few minutes to check out the area for signs of other than military personnel tracks. Footprints (like Kitty's shoes) and bootprints lead off from the site - she might have been escorted by them, or followed by them, but the tracks lead off on the easiest route out by foot. The footprints lead into an area that is recovering from mining and is now covered with grass. The footprints disappear at a sort of crop circle. Actually, it looks like a pattern made by a hovercraft.
The group heads back to the Terrainasaurus, and follow the direction the hovercraft went, into the swamp. Fortunately, the vehicle can handle water. They try to go from cover to cover, as much as possible. It's like travelling through the bayou.
After travelling for a while, several absolutely huge drilling platforms loom up ahead. The platforms have helicopters on them, and lots of defensive armaments on them. The troops all look very stract, and are wearing the Naasirka colors. All the monitoring equipment on the platforms are such that they probably see the vehicle. It does, according to the manual, have the capability to submerge, if that helps.
The decision needs to be made as to whether or not the group tries to contact the oil rig, or not. Behrel decides to at least make the attempt to talk first, over the radio. As a directional antenna is rigged, a couple of the armed hovercraft approach and start firing. Behrel returns fire while Anders evades, and Jimi Ray attempts to make contact. The response is "Surrender or be destroyed." Behrel's response is to "tell them to stop shooting at us or we'll destroy their vehicle". It's eventually decided that they are outgunned, and the best choice is to surrender, for now.
As people are being patted down and disarmed by one of the men in the first hovercraft, after being brought on to the hovercraft, the smartass tosses Behrel's shotgun into the swamp. Behrel tosses him into the water, where something comes up and eats him. Then the fight is on, people bringing up weapons, etc. Anders and the pilot of the hovercraft get into a tussle over the pilot's flaregun, which goes off, firing into the missile cache. !!! Anders yells "Abandon ship!", Nicolai grabs Anders and pulls her out, everyone dives for the Terrainasaurus, including the pilot of the hovercraft. Jimi Ray starts to drive like mad, and the pilot is hanging part way off the edge. One of the huge things that inhabit the swamp (big, spiky teeth, sort of a cross between a shark and a sturgeon) grabs the pilot by the leg, and won't let go. Several other "fish" also surface and grab onto the guy. Nicolai has a good grip on him, and Cena is going for a shotgun when Anders yells to Nicolai to "Feed the fish!", so he lets go.
The second hovercraft fires on the group as they are commencing to flee, just as the first hovercraft explodes. The Terrainasaurus is sealed up and taken down below water level, in an attempt to convince the bad guys that they've sunk the vehicle. The group travels underwater until they contact a large metal object - pylon #3, underneath the platform. The decision is made to stay put until nightfall. Playing cards are pulled out.
After dark, when the lights are on, and the shadows are harsh, its the time to begin surfacing- after taking care of three former members of the local planetary army, who were acting as not terribly good sentries. A shift change is taking place, and the announcement about "...the bordello is now serving second shift..." is overheard. Anders figures the bordello is a good place to check first, as it will have women, and if Kitty is here the bad guys have probably put the pregnant woman there.
An encounter with some of the Naasirka troops results in Behrel being shot in the heart, but medicked really quickly. Nicolai ends up in a side room, with a bunch of surprised officers around a table. They are contemplating going for their guns when Nicolai opens up, hitting all of them. Before he leaves the room, he drops his old Ling Standard pin on the floor.
The alarm goes off, the group grabs the officer Anders wounded, and try to get some information out of him. He's one of the hard types, and is not going to cooperate. "Fear" (a psychometric drug) is administered, but he has an extreme reaction, and goes berserk. He's released to add to the confusion in the halls, and is shot as he runs towards his own people, brandishing a welding torch and screaming about spiders. Ghaer finds one of the hookers, and asks about the "pregnant woman". Turns out there was a really pregnant "VIP" on the platform, but she was helicoptered out that morning. Argh.
Much mayhem ensues, especially when Anders sets off the smoke grenade and the people on the oil rig assume it's a real fire. Alarms go off, fire hoses are pulled out, and Anders grabs a hose, runs out onto the deck, and dives over the edge the platform, holding onto the hose. Everyone else is a bit surprised by this. The hose takes on a life of its own when the foam starts feeding down the hose. Anders lets go and drops into the water, then swims to the nearby fast boat. Behrel slices off the hose before it injures some one, which results in the group getting camouflaged in foam. They make their escape to the Terrainasaurus, which Jimi Ray brings back up above the surface using the remote control, in the mess.
It's a long, quiet trip underwater, to the far end of the swamp. The drivers (Anders and Jimi Ray) trade off driving duties, and everyone else sleeps and heals. The night passes.
200 - 1122.
After emerging from the swamp, radio contact is made with Up Port. Turns out Naasirka contacted the Starport Authority to tell them they had rescued Katherine Cordman (aka Kitty Bitch), and were sending her via fast gunship to Down Port. Unfortunately, they lost contact with the helicopter, and it never reached it's destination. ARGH! They get the helicopter's trajectory, and the range between where it last made contact, and the checkpoint they missed, so off they go to rescue Kitty. Again.
Along the way, in the forest, the party observes a bearded man in the remains of a really good suit, and some rabbit skins. He looks at the vehicle in a panicked sort of way before dashing off into the brush, rabbit in hand. So that's what's become of the missing feral Senator. Anders and Cena throw out a pack with food and medical supplies. Anyone as resourceful as he is deserves to live.
Through the jungle, which eventually thins, then into forest, to the edge of an interior sea, about the size of Lake Superior on Terra. Hmmmm. It's too big to go around, so it's boat trip time. Actually, it's a very pleasant trip, with time to get out of armor, get cleaned up (Behrel asks if he "can hose" Cena "off"? Cena's reply is "I don't know - can you?"), and get rested.
201 - 1122.
After a relaxing trip, the group exits out onto the plains. The direction they need to go is over the hills, where they can hear mortar fire. Over the hill, in sight of several burned out wrecks. One of them is a helicopter - with an emergency beacon still functioning. It's the Naasirka chopper, with one dead male (Anders and Cena checked the crisped body), and with a nearby emergency 'raft'. All the chocolate has been eaten out of the emergency pack, and the food and water is missing. Kitty's tracks go on for a ways, then she evidently is picked up by someone. On the road again...
A mine takes out a tire, and while changing it, the group is ambushed by some troops in hides in the grass. Nicolai spots them just before they pop out, so the ambush doesn't work. A lone survivor is surrendering when he is shot in the head by a sniper (not ours). Damn. Smoke is laid down, and the tire is changed, but Jimi Ray is hit. Cena does a stunning job medicking him, so no permanent damage. Off again, past more smoking vehicles. No Kitty.
An encounter with a Naasirka helicopter pilot who is blown out of the sky right afterwards, gives the party info on the minefield up ahead. They go around the minefield, and end up in the midst of a calvary (armor, not horses) movement. They get into an area with wounded, and Anders and Cena go help, especially when they see that the expected doctors were in the now smoking medical truck. Supplies are salvaged, and assistance is rendered. Nicolai decides to fade into the woodwork after Behrel is arrested when he tells people he's a reporter; he's almost shot when he refuses to hand over his kelaeir (Anders trades meds for a "bout of shore leave" to the guard for permission to take the sword). Anders and Cena go to the command center, and help amputate the leg of an officer who epitomizes sang froid. He starts to light up a cigarette in a holder, but Anders does not approve: "Now those will kill you! If you don't put that thing out, I won't cut off your leg." Cena advises he do as Anders says, which he does. The leg is removed expertly, while the officer flirts, first with Anders (but he finds out she's married), then with Cena. The Major has a large number of scars, and Anders warns him about Regen problems; turns out the Major is one of those people who responds better every time he gets Regen. How fascinating. After Anders goes to medic some of the other officers, the Major asks for Cena's phone number, which she gives him.
The Major is convinced to have Behrel ("He has the same name as that rock and roll pervert. Poor man.") released to Anders' care, and he is also able to tell them that Kitty was last seen with the armor unit just up the road. Finally! Kitty is in fact found, inside a tank, learning to shoot the other side's vehicles. She's having a great time, and is unscathed. She is happy to see Behrel, and after getting her axe (guitar), the group takes off. There's a crater lake not too far away, through terrain other vehicles would avoid. Once in the middle, Corina is contacted, and arrangements are made for pickup. However, Kitty or rather Kitty's kids decide they can't wait. Oh boy.
A lot of screaming, swearing, and crushing of Behrel's hand later, Behrel and Kitty have four healthy, vocal little boys. Nicolai spent the birthing period safely ensconced in the front of the vehicle. Corina's ship arrives, with naval escort, and everyone boards and goes home or to the hospital. Safe and sound at last, with John, Paul, George, and Ringo dom Camreal. The proud daddy does make a brief statement for the press, announcing the names, and that mother and babies are all doing fine. Behrel later arranges for all the people who went on the mission to be paid, guild rate plus, even though they didn't ask to be.
Corina invites Mr. Scalese to lunch at the Jasmine Club. She wants to have a little chat with him. Corina wants a favor, but Scalese wants to know what is it first. Corina asks him to be the godfather of her child. Scalese needs to think about it, as this is a serious commitment; he wants to discuss it with his wife first. Corina is Catholic (at least on paper) too, so that's not an issue. The Scaleses will eventually say yes, and they will be available in five months or so.
Nicolai invites Jimi Ray to tour his house down on Regina, once he gets out of the hospital, to see an example of Pikhan architecture. While Jimi Ray is in the hospital, Nicolai introduces him to Christie, at least partially to be able to say "Look, I went out on a mission and he got shot instead of me!"